Few things stop us while scrolling Instagram like a girl in a sports bra with abs about to consume a gourmet donut. Somewhere in the caption our eyes catch the typical hashtags: “#IIFYM #flexibledieting.”
We look over at our salad, confused. “Aren’t I the one who’s doing it right? But I don’t look like that.”
Flexible Dieting, or If It Fits Your Macros is taking the fitness world by storm, consuming even the most hardcore paleo CrossFitters along the way. People are eating (white) potatoes and powdered donuts and they’re getting leaner and performing better in the gym.
I’m not here to tell you to stop eating your salad, but I want to shed a light on how you can start using macros to have your abs, and have your donut, too (in six simple steps).
- Get Self Aware: Track Your Food
90% of people I talk to think they’re eating “pretty good” – until they download My Fitness Pal and see the nutrient breakdown of their go-to foot-long sub.
Download the My Fitness Pal app and start tracking everything you’re eating. Every tablespoon of peanut butter and ounce of beer counts. Enter it.
Track your food for an entire week without changing anything to paint a clear picture of your starting point.
- Stick to Whole Foods 80-90% of the Time
Once you know where you’re at, it’s time to swap out fast food for homemade goodness.
Yes, you’ll occasionally see a fit girl in a crop top crushing Krispy Kreme. But more often than not, she’s probably sticking to chicken, rice, and broccoli.
Shop the periphery of the grocery store and choose foods that come from a field rather than a box. If the ingredients list is the name of the food, eat it (i.e. “sweet potato,” and not “Oreo”).
- See Consistency as Your Bedrock
If you eat chicken, rice, and broccoli all week, and match your dozen beer with a dozen Krispy Kreme Friday night, you’ll be back to square one come Monday morning.
As you can see in my following ice cream chart (who needs a pie chart, amiright?), consistency is the table on which we build a solid nutrition system.
Most of us have some idea how to eat healthy, but let our emotions make our decisions for us when we’re out with friends or tired from a busy week. This is where counting macros becomes valuable. On Monday through Thursday maybe you hit your carbs with sweet potatoes and veggies. Friday night you might sneak in one donut, and Saturday you might swap 20 g of your carbohydrates for a glass of wine.
If your goal is to lose weight, entering your activity level and setting My Fitness Pal to help you lose 0.5 lbs per week will give you decent enough macros to start making progress.
- Get Savvy on Good Sources
To master hitting your macros, you’ll need to know how to reach for good protein, carb, and fat sources.
For protein, choose a variety from:
When it comes to carbs, aim for 5+ cups of veggies per day (especially the green ones), and then fill in the rest with starchy sources like:
- Sweet potatoes
- Air-popped popcorn
As far as fat goes, do your best to get it from a variety of animal and fat sources, like:
- Fattier cuts of grass-fed meat
- Grass-fed butter
- Dairy (if it doesn’t upset your digestive system)
- Coconut oil
- Nuts or nut butter
- Dark chocolate
- Safflower, olive, or flaxseed oil
- Avoid Surprises: Enter Your Food Before You Eat It
No matter how much you know about food, there will be things you eat that are going to surprise you. Enter your meal in My Fitness Pal before you eat it.
I mentioned the foot-long sub example above because one of those packs about 85 g of carbohydrates alone. That’s enough for two to three meals.
Take five minutes before ordering at a restaurant or filling your plate at home to make sure you’re about to enjoy a balanced meal that fits your macros.
- Remember, It Doesn’t Have to Be Boring
Once you’ve learned to track your macros with some level of consistency, don’t let yourself fall into the chicken, broccoli, and rice trap. Consuming a variety of whole foods to hit your macros will keep the IIFYM life interesting, and ensure you’re getting enough micronutrients.
Micronutrients are the vitamins and minerals necessary for helping our body perform all the complex processes it needs to.
I often do a weekly challenge with my clients around this, encouraging them to try foods they’ve never had before:
- Add in fermented foods like Kombucha, sauerkraut, or kimchi
- Make a stir fry with a veggie you’ve never cooked (maybe Bok choy?)
- Get some chia seeds to sprinkle into a smoothie or on top of your salad
- Track your food how you normally eat for seven days to become self-aware
- Stick to whole foods 80-90% of the time
- See consistency as your bedrock
- Get savvy of good protein, carb, and fat sources
- Avoid surprises by entering your food before you eat it
- Keep things interesting and avoid the chicken, broccoli, and rice trap
There you have it, friend. There’s more to macros than crop tops and donuts. That should be enough to get you going towards your first proud-bodied Instagram post using the hashtags #IIFYM and #flexibledieting.
Eat well all week and then enjoy too much of whatever you want on the weekends? Working with a nutrition coach might be just what you need to stay consistent until you look lean and feel confident. For more information on our Idealistic Isabel nutrition program, click here!